Interview with John Bensalhia

What motivated you to become an indie author?
Publishing is a difficult market to break, especially for a new author. In a tricky financial climate, I guess publishers aren't willing to take the risk by investing in an unknown quantity.
With something like Doctor Who, there are many books on the market, and the unofficial guides have grown in number - which makes it even trickier for someone like me who wanted to put all my reviews together into both a series of books and one big book. The great thing about indie publishing is that it makes this possible, and even better, you get to call the shots in terms of content, editing and cover.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in London and then moved to Sussex when I was seven years old. I always enjoyed writing, and I guess that's why I enjoyed English at school because it allows you a more creative rein in what you write and how you write it.
I also did English at A Level and degree level, but that's a different ballgame. I found that a lot of that is more to do with over-analysing books and texts - maybe that's subconsciously influenced my reviews in that I can over-analyse at times. But on the other hand (especially at degree level), I found that there was very little room for humour studying English. It was all very po-faced and serious to a fault, so I've always tried to go against that in my writing and try and make my work informative but accessible and sometimes humorous (or at least what passes for humour in my tiny mind).
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, it's a compilation of all the Doctor Who reviews that I published for a website called Shadowlocked. I also included extra things so that anybody who bought it would get a bit extra. So there's transmission and recording dates, plus notes about the novelisations, video cassettes and DVD releases. The DVD notes were pretty exhausting to note because there are a lot of extra features! So that was an ongoing thing in the background when I started writing the reviews just in case that one day they would be turned into a book.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well, it's helped me to sell books which I never thought I'd do in a million years. The good thing about Smashwords is that you sell books through other outlets such as Barnes & Noble, WH Smith and Kobo. You're going global at the press of a button.
When did you first start writing?
Since I was a kid. I was a creative writing nut at school and enjoyed coming up with all these different types of story. I actually wrote a 107-page novel when I was 11 as a school project which I still have. It's called Space Kids and is a really cringe-inducing mix of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Blake's 7, the Fighting Fantasy novels, The Adventure Game and the music of Roxy Music.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Because I also do freelance journalism, the best thing is that you get to learn a lot. I think I've learned an awful lot of stuff in the past few years which I wouldn't have known about previously and broadened my knowledge a little bit.
Plus, it's also quite a buzz seeing my name in print!
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans? What fans?
Actually, I did get a very kind email yesterday from someone saying that they had read the reviews and really liked them, so that was a nice surprise. On the whole, the feedback (through online comments and Twitter) has actually been positive to my Doctor Who reviews which is very flattering.
How do you approach cover design?
The series of ebooks I did was just a case of photographing a number of familiar Doctor Who elements such as jelly babies, bow tie, a scarf and a recorder. All placed round a good-old-fashioned childhood icon, which is actually my own teddy which I've had since birth. He's in better condition than me!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember the first poem that I wrote aged five, it was called "The Camel Who Came To Town" and it went "The camel who came to town/Looked down with a frown/He banged the town with a grip/And went back on a ship". Needless to say, I don't think a poetry career awaited me with open arms...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Country walks, cycling, listening to music and cooking which I've become marginally better at.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
All the usual stuff as a kid, like the Mr Men books! Actually, I preferred the comic books such as the Charlie Brown anthologies, the Asterix tales and the Tintin series - I think they also influenced my interest in drawing cartoons.
Describe your desk
It's like a racoon came into the room and trashed it. I'd charitably say that it's organised chaos in that at least I know where everything is. I think this is why I don't trust astrology, given that Virgos are supposed to be neat and tidy and organised!
What are you working on next?
I'm actually thinking about two possibilities. One is a series of kids' books which combines my cartoon drawing and storytelling. The other is a series of murder mysteries with a central Poirot-style figure. So watch this space!
Published 2013-08-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Perpetual Outsider - An Unofficial, Unauthorised Fan Guide To Doctor Who: Vol 4 2005-2012
By John Bensalhia
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 184,900. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2012. Category: Nonfiction
Volume Four of John Bensalhia's guide to the popular TV series Doctor Who, charting the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith eras. Includes story reviews, brief overviews of DVD releases, plus recording and transmission dates.
Perpetual Outsider - An Unofficial, Unauthorised Fan Guide To Doctor Who: Vol 3 1982-1996
By John Bensalhia
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 96,430. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2012. Category: Nonfiction
Volume Three of John Bensalhia's guide to the popular television series Doctor Who, charting the Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann eras. Includes story reviews, brief overviews of books, video and DVD releases, plus recording and transmission dates.
Perpetual Outsider - An Unofficial, Unauthorised Fan Guide To Doctor Who: Vol 2 1970-1981
By John Bensalhia
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 143,050. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2012. Category: Nonfiction
Volume Two of John Bensalhia's guide to the popular television series Doctor Who, charting the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. Includes story reviews, brief overviews of books, video and DVD releases, plus recording and transmission dates.
Perpetual Outsider: An Unofficial, Unauthorised Fan Guide To Doctor Who: Vol 1 1963-1969
By John Bensalhia
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 70,910. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2012. Category: Nonfiction
Volume One of John Bensalhia's guide to the popular television series Doctor Who, charting the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras. Includes story reviews, brief overviews of books, video and DVD releases, plus recording and transmission dates.
Perpetual Outsider - An Unofficial, Unauthorised Fan Guide To Doctor Who: Complete
By John Bensalhia
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 492,610. Language: English. Published: December 10, 2012. Category: Nonfiction
A complete fan guide to the popular television series Doctor Who, including story reviews, brief overviews of books, video and DVD releases, plus recording and transmission dates.